They Call Me Coach

March 7, 1999

I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned my short career as a basketball coach. During the days when I served as pastor in Downey, California, our church entered a team in the Word of Life Basketball Marathon. Since the tournament was designed to be evangelistic, you were allowed to recruit players who didn’t attend your church. In our case that meant going to the local high schools and finding players who had never even heard of our church. We loaded up with some outside shooters and one or two big men who could muscle their way to the basket. We had 12 players – five from our church and seven who had to look at their jerseys to remember who they were playing for. In the tournament we faced some excellent teams from all over southern California. We won most of our games and if memory serves, ended up in first or second place. The way we won was to play the seven guys we had recruited off the street as much as possible and the five from our church as little as possible. My coaching consisted of yelling “Get the rebound!” and “You call that a foul?”

Because our team had done so well, we were invited to attend the regional tournament in northern California. That’s when things started to unravel. One by one the seven guys we recruited said they couldn’t go. That left me with the five guys from our church-Kenny and Brett and Donny and Tim and Mike. How can I say this delicately? None of them had ever played basketball before other than in the backyard. If we went to the regional tournament, they would be destroyed. But they wanted to go, so we went. It was not a pretty sight. During the first game I looked up at the scoreboard and we were behind 28-0. Thats hard to do in basketball. We ended up losing 56-2. Our closest loss was 48-6. We ended up being outscored 220-16 in four games. After the first game I got the team together and asked if they wanted to go home. Go home? Are you kidding? Those guys were having a blast. Just being there was reward enough. We actually went out in the parking lot and practiced a couple of plays we thought might work. They didn’t but it didn’t matter.

I learned many things that weekend-including the fact that coaching basketball would not be a good career move for me. I smile when I remember the laughter we shared on the long drive home. The lesson endures. If you enjoy each day as a gift from God, you’re a winner no matter who’s ahead at the end of the game.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?